Tag Archives: creativity

Getting Your Hands Dirty – Stay Forever Young, Artist!

Grace works her flower petals.

Grace works her flower petals.

Today has been a fun time, and I have my awesome daughter to thank for that. I was already to try and do a little painting again today, but to tell you the truth, the arm has taken a kicking this week and it’s a struggle just to hold onto the brush. Grace thought it would be fun to do something with clay. Internally, I groaned, thinking…oh dear ….what a mess this is going to be to clean up. Then I thought, well why the heck not? So, we cleared off the kitchen table, put the plastic down and got dirty!

It was a ton of fun, and therapeutic in so many ways. I got to play….and feel the spirit of a young, enthusiastic, loving gal :: just what every artist needs! Getting your hands on a different medium than what you are used to is GREAT for the soul. I had no expectations, and I admit the first thought I had was, “I’ll make a little pot with the coil method.” DUH…heck no. I let that go and just started playing around with the clay, watching how excited Grace was and how SURE she was about making a flower, a lily pad and a frog. Here they are:

Grace's frog, lily pad and flower.

Grace’s frog, lily pad and flower. Oh my.

I am so amazed at the creativity of an eight year old. My messy bust pales in comparison! Grace, you’re my idol.

Clay busts

Our messy fun today.

Slowly, this fellah emerged. I haven’t finished it, but it’s been awfully fun messing around, and much easier on my arm today. Yippee….thanks for making me get dirty Grace. I have so much to learn from you….wait…I’m coming…teach me so more!!!!


FOREVER YOUNG  – The Lyrical Poetry of Life and Living

My favourite version of “Forever Young” by Bob Dylan is sung by Audra Mae & The Forest Rangers, as part of the “Sons of Anarchy” TV series. So beautifully sung, I dedicate this to my daughter and every working artist in the world, wishing her (and you) everything in this lyrical, beautiful song:


Forever Young…

May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.

May you grow up to be righteous
May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you
May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.

May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
And may your song always be sung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.


Post Surgical Sketches – Let the Dance Begin

Self Portrait, Jan 21, 2013

Self Portrait, Jan 21, 2013

I am pretty sure that it was the morphine and anaesthetic that kept me up all night after my surgery, but as I was lying in my hospital cubicle 6 hours after coming out of surgery, I realized that there were images dancing in my head. Ones that I should not keep to myself. Having been surgically altered forever, my “outside” was never going to be the same, but my inside was still dancing, singing and yearning to be free.

Being the optimist that I am, I had a sketchpad and pencil on the table next to me, even though I’d been told I may not be able to move my hand or arm for days afterwards. Leaning against the rails that kept me from falling out of the bed, I sketched away, and was able to sleep, and sketch five times during that long night.



I realize a week later as I drag my painful self around the studio, that the pain medication made this totally possible, but I’m encouraged to think of some new possibilities for paintings in the upcoming months. The lovely night nurse that kept checking on me told me the story of her son and his fiancé, a similar love story to that of Kevin and I….so I created one for her too…but it’s with her now. I found these simple pieces to be the most personal pieces I’ve done to date.

Self Portrait, Jan 21, 2013

Self Portrait, Jan 21, 2013

Self Portrait, Jan 21, 2013

Self Portrait, Jan 21, 2013

Creativity gives us hope, a vision and ultimately – a goal. We should never be afraid to express ourselves, no matter the situation we find ourselves in.

Top 10 Ways To Grow As An Artist

Work In Progress - Haida Gwaii

“The Portal :: Work In Progress – Gwaii Haanas Collection” ©2012 Janice Tanton. Oil on canvas. 72″x96″.

1. Ignore Every Single “Non-Artist” Authority.

Whether or not it’s your best gallery owner, jurors, grant authorities, your greatest collector, your mother, your spouse or your kids. Ultimately, you need to ignore what they say. Unless they are artists – ignore their opinion on the work. Good…or bad.

If they’re not creating, they’re not in the same zone you are regarding your growth as an artist. Be pure in your mission to create. You are the expert on you and you alone.

2. Eyes On The Prize :: Surround Yourself with Talent Better Than Your Own.

Take stock of your skills. With a critical eye, review where you are weak. Take workshops, study and apprentice with artists who are better than you are. Read art books, watch demo videos. Learn from them. If you enjoy an artist’s vision – tell them. Open up a dialogue and engage! If you’re a realist – check out American Painting Video Magazine which profiles some of the best contemporary realists.

3. Be Authentic and Transparent.

Put it all out there with confidence. If you don’t know something, admit it. If you do – share it. This requires a lot of bravery. Go for it. No one ever grew from being fearful. Let it go. You’ll still be standing tomorrow.

4. Create A Habit To Create.

Make stuff. Lots of it. If it’s not finished, who cares. Just make it. Surround yourself with a lot of work in progress. Have a dozen pieces on the go at once and commit to paint every day for 6-8 week periods or longer. Build it up until you are creating something every day.

5. Boot “Failure” and “Success” OFF the Island.

Ignore them. There is no place for failure or success in the life of the creative. In fact, there’s little space for quantitative measurement of either. There is only the act of creation – the process. Draw from everything you know, let it all go and make something new…without thinking. Don’t judge it – either way. There is no “good” or “bad”. There is just the thing you make.

6. Focus On The Process – Never The Outcome.

Enjoy every moment process in the creation of your work. From the second you wake and pour a coffee to head to the studio, you are creating. Consider that. Enjoy each step – don’t rush until you’re ready to go to the next step. Consider every action of “make” a beautiful, complete moment of creation in itself. Don’t think about the outcome. Just do.

7. Never Apologize.

Be pure in every statement of your work, from the action of the brushstroke to the articulation of the piece. Never “excuse”. If you are honest in your art-making in each step, you’ll learn, create and grow beyond your wildest dreams.

8. Get The Heck Out of Dodge!

Seriously – get out of town! Take a trip far away from your hometown and studio. Visit museums, art galleries and libraries. Find a culture completely different from your own and be curious. Ask questions – learn and challenge your own beliefs. Pick something so different from your “regular beat” that it scares you.

9. Share. Share. Share.

Share everything you know  – no matter what the topic – with everyone who will listen. You’ll learn, in return. Share your failures. Share surprise, success, your birthday, your family…share it all. It’s in sharing our stories, we discover our commonalities and our differences. This is the stuff “art” is made from!

10. Define Your Space. Raise Your Capital.

That means physical, emotional, social, psychological and financial space that will allow you to do 3 1-9. Set yourself up for success by having enough capital to totally commit yourself to your work in all these areas. If you’re looking for a helper, check out Alyson B. Stanfield. Lots of incredible art business advice and workshops here! Need help with your blog? Contact the amazing Kim Bruce. She just saved this blogpost for me!


Got any further ideas or resources? Remember #9 – Share, share share!


Folks Who Inspire:

Jerry Fresia – Authentic Impressionism
Alyson B. Stanfield – Artbizcoach.com
Kim Bruce – Artbiz.ca
Scott Waddell
Grand Central Academy
Jacob Collins
Bo Bartlett


8 Seconds – TEDxCalgary Features Janice Tanton

I’ve been sorta, kinda, maybe… definitely….kinda…sorta…a little bit HIDING this talk, but I think I got “outted” today by the wonderful folks at TEDxCalgary when they blasted this email today to all the amazing participants and Calgary area folks. I’m learning to celebrate when good things happen, but I still have trouble watching myself in this video.

Honestly…I would have rather gone 8 seconds with the bull at the Stampede.

Thanks to everyone for the comments and to so many of you who have been inspired to have a little creative fun of your own. That makes me feel great!

I look like I’m blowing kisses to the audience, but in fact, I was suffering from a severe case of dry mouth while I was on stage, and had just finished an awesome boob joke following the chicken breast guy that spoke before me. I’m thankful for that, because it sure set me up!

If you haven’t seen the video, there’s a link below.

Enjoy…and CREATE!

TEDxCalgary 8 Seconds Email Photo Featuring Janice Tanton


The Infamous Famous TED Talk

Related Posts:

Breaking Through

Fear and Acceptance

9 Effective Ways For Artists To Silence Their Inner Critic

Everyone has it – that annoying voice of The Little Man inside your head that wants to take you away from what you are doing, comment (usually negatively), judge, doubt your actions, keep you in a state of fear and paralyze you from getting things done that you know you should…..the things that you love, the things that move you forward and the things that inspire confidence in your work and the world around you. It’s a battle but I’ve found some tools and strategies to get him gone when I need to.

Who is The Little Man?

The Little Man…has been with me since I was about five or six. He becomes strongest and invades most people then and begins to take over, crushing things like creativity…adventure…wonder…curiosity…and many other creative qualities that could improve the state of man and woman.

 The Little Man has a number of other aliases including The Inner Critic, the Left Brain, The Accountant, The Timekeeper & The Analyst. 

Usually, the onset of school is his inglorious birth. When we learn to “sit on the square”, “talk only when we have our hand up”, “nap at nap time”, and use the glue for pasting instead of tasting. The age when you start to develop language is the time that he’s born. He is the destruction of innocence itself and he grows and learns clever ways to keep you from exploring and expressing yourself completely. Concepts such as rules enter in mostly through language and we learn to “colour inside the lines” rather than to express ourselves with abandon and joy. It’s a sad time, when I think about it. Watch a child the year before he or she enters school…and then a year afterwards. I do everything in my power to ensure that my own kids remember what it’s like without “The MAN” inside your head. Sir Ken Robinson has a great TED talk on “How Schools Kill Creativity”. Fight back. Appeal to your school board for more creative opportunities for children and teens.

“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original”
– Sir Ken Robinson

Through the ages of 6-12, the MAN gets stronger and stronger. In some kids, he takes over completely. You know you’ve heard of him – he’s called The Bully at this age. Every now and then, the MAN really takes over some kid and totally whacks him (or her) out. That child becomes a beast, torturing others, cajoling other kids to take their side and trying to silence every voice that rises against them. (Oh…wait….that’s Steven Harper’s government, isn’t it?)

The facts on bullying are plain and clear, yet it still persists as a cornerstone in all cultures and societies. Perhaps the worst thing about it is that it’s a learned behaviour.

The Little Man is clever. He has ways to sustain himself through your lifetime and clearly cause havoc in more serious forms than quashing the artist in you. Honestly, if you haven’t heard that your child … (and I am speaking metaphorically about both …YOU and in the “real” here where your children are concerned)… has been bullied in some way or another, you might want to check and see if YOUR child has been taken over by The Little Man and is the bully. Oftentimes, The Little Man is invisible to adults. Get some crayons….draw a picture of what their day was like at school (or for you in the studio or at work), what happened at recess and lunch and have a good look at their/your drawings. Ask them to tell you what’s happening. As yourself what’s happening. Those drawings will tell you much more about what’s going on. I’ve seen many adults re-learn how to do this very effectively in The Community Fusion Project.

 “Bullying is the assertion of power through aggression. Its forms change with age: school playground bullying, sexual harassment, gang attacks, date violence, assault, marital violence, child abuse, workplace harassment and elder abuse.” (Pepler and Craig, 1997)

I digress…but I DO want you to think of The Little Man as a Bully when it comes to your Creative Self. The first step in silencing him is to recognize his nature and his source.

The Seven Grandfather Teachings - painting by Janice Tanton

"The Seven Grandfathers" ©2008 Janice Tanton. Oil on Canvas 8"x24"

Rules To Govern The Little Man

You can’t totally “kill” The Little Man. That would be wrong. It might end up totally disconnecting you from yourself and from humanity.

The Little Man has a use – he keeps you from jumping off a cliff, hurting yourself (physically, socially and mentally) and there have to be some rules that guide us and connect us with each other. I use The Seven Grandfather Teachings to guide me and let me know if The Little Man is doing something he’s not supposed to.

“The Little Man LIKES rules.”


He understands reason when these are applied to him and usually backs right off. The thing about The Little Man is that if he’s rule-bound, he ALLOWS creativity…because he has something to play with and keep him busy. Here are the 7 Grandfather Teachings – the rules to keep The Little Man occupied while you do the work of a Full Time Human Being:

  • Nibwaakaawin—Wisdom: To cherish knowledge is to know Wisdom. Wisdom is given by the Creator to be used for the good of the people.
  • Zaagi’idiwin—Love: To know Love is to know peace. Love must be unconditional. When people are weak they need love the most.
  • Minaadendamowin—Respect: To honor all creation is to have Respect. All of creation should be treated with respect. You must give respect if you wish to be respected.
  • Aakode’ewin—Bravery: Bravery is to face the foe with integrity. In the Anishinaabe language, this word literally means “state of having a fearless heart.” To do what is right even when the consequences are unpleasant.
  • Gwayakwaadiziwin—Honesty: Honesty in facing a situation is to be brave. Always be honest in word and action. Be honest first with yourself, and you will more easily be able to be honest with others.
  • Dabaadendiziwin—Humility: Humility is to know yourself as a sacred part of Creation. In the Anishinaabe language, this word can also mean “compassion.” You are equal to others, but you are not better.
  • Debwewin—Truth: Truth is to know all of these things. Speak the truth. Do not deceive yourself or others.


OUT The Little Man

Usually, The Little Man hits some pretty sensitive personal nerves but I’ve been working on facing the things that he says while I’m trying to create. He can be cruel and cunning. Remember – he lives in your head. He knows your sensitive parts better than you do. Never apologize to him.

The Little Man’s arch-enemy is Honesty. He doesn’t like being reasoned back with when it’s something he can’t “un-reason” through a logical process. Telling the truth to him and giving him the honest truth is VERY effective. I’m “outting” The Little Man right now. Here’s what he says to me, the evil-doer!

  • You shouldn’t be painting. You should go make dinner for the day.
  • This painting isn’t going anywhere. You should go online and meet up with Twitter friends or write a blogpost.
  • That’s a crappy colour – not at all what you were looking for. Why don’t you give up. You’ll never get it right.
  • How long is this going to take? I’ve got other things you need to do.
  • You spend too much time painting. You should go be with your family. What a terrible mother you are. <<<(WTF?? OUCH!!)
  • You’re not an artist. You’re no good at this. <<(This is The Little Man at his most brutal.)

Timing Is Everything to The Little Man

Studio Clock

Studio Clock - Creativity Waits for No One!

Creativity is a timeless action. The Little Man hates anything that doesn’t have a clear beginning, middle and end and that takes more time than he can comprehend. He’s impatient. He likes things done when HE says so. Give him a timer. Tell him that he will just have to wait, and that you have set an egg timer that, when it goes off…you’ll listen to him again and get that other “junk” done. This is kind of like a rule. He’ll like that….and in this…you can TRICK him. When the timer goes off, take a break, let him in just for a minute and then tell him AGAIN that you’ll set a timer and let him back in awhile. He forgets that you just did this to him. (It’s hilarious, actually).

Sing The Little Man To Sleep

Everyone loves rest, including The Little Man. He just doesn’t know it until you lull him into it and get him to nod off. One of the best ways to do this is by playing him some music that has no words. Jazz….classical…..The Little Man doesn’t speak “music”. He’s a verbal creature so if you sing melody to him long enough, he gets bored of trying to understand a language he’ll never learn. I like to listen to movies too. His only way of coping is to go to sleep.

Paint The Little Man Into A Corner

Sometimes just the ACT of creating, if sustained long enough, puts The Little Man off pouting into the corner. He doesn’t like to be ignored. Ignore him entirely and do what you do best….create! He doesn’t really have enough fight in him to keep going, so YOU have to be the bossy one and persistently get into whatever act of creation you love. Stay with it. He’ll get tired and go off to pout in the corner. He’ll forget you’re there and you want that. Write….sing….dance….paint. All of those, when sustained for any length of time will toddle him off to his corner. Even taking a drive or going for a long walk will do it.
The Little Man can only manage the logical.
As a Creator, YOU are a master of the illogical. Use it.
You go get some work done while he’s got his big lower lip pushed out and his arms crossed.
The Little Man's favourite toys

The Little Man's favourite toys in his favourite place.

Take Away The Little Man’s Toys

Do you have your computer, your office work and the like in YOUR creative space? Those are the toys The Little Man ALWAYS wants to play with, and he’ll keep nagging you as long as he can see them. It’s a good idea if you can, to remove all the logical, business-like, accountant-like “stuff” like your computer(s), printers, files, etc. to another space entirely. Separating your space from The Little Man’s space makes him happy. He knows when he goes into HIS room, he gets to do the stuff that makes him happiest – bookkeeping, inventory, social media, correspondence with clients, etc. In YOUR room, you only have tools to make things creatively. That bores him. Ignore him again, tell him that he’ll have time SOON to spend on his stuff. He’ll go to sleep…or off to pout again. If you don’t have enough room to separate them physically, then turn them off…or hide everything that will distract The Little Man….or go away and participate in a residency with other artists. Don’t let ANYONE kid you. Everyone is battling The Little Man. Tricky….tricky….tricky!


Pay Attention To The Little Man 

Give him what he wants. He’s very self-centred and ultimately self-preserving. If he’s SO very persistent and the task he’s asking you to complete sounds reasonable – it probably is. In other words, DO spend time with your family. DO take time out from the studio and write that blogpost. DO your bookkeeping. DO go skiing. DO take a rest from creating – you’re likely tired and The Little Man is trying to preserve both of you for another day.

Remember – The Little Man does prevent you from hurting yourself (and himself – he’s mostly selfish!).

9 Ways to Silence The Little Man (Your Inner Critic)

  1. Remember, the keyword describing  The Little Man is LITTLE. Know your Little Man. Know your Creativity is The Big Man.
  2. Know the nature of The Little Man. His nature is to BULLY.
  3. Give The Little Man some RULES to keep him occupied.
  4. OUT The Little Man by saying out loud or writing down what he says to you. Exposure is a terrible thing for The Little Man.
  5. Give him a TIMER. Send him off to count and wait while you’re working.
  6. Put The Little Man to SLEEP. Give him a lullaby.
  7. PAINT, DANCE, WRITE, SING or PLAY The Little Man into a corner.
  8. TAKE AWAY The Little Man’s favourite TOYS & give him a room of his own.
  9. PAY ATTENTION to The Little Man. He wants to live another day…and so do you!
Now that I’ve erased him for the day…I’m off to the easel.
More Left Brain/Right Brain reading and resources:



TEDxCalgary – Janice Tanton :: The Language of the Creator

The fine folks at TEDxCalgary have done a wonderful job making me look good on film, and I want to thank them for the opportunity and challenge. An extra special thank you to some inspiring Full Time Human Beings who helped me find my voice: Donna Kennedy-Glans, Elder Tom Crane Bear, Dr. Laura Brearley and to Dr. Nick Nissley. Thank you all so much for modelling bravery and respect in such human ways and action.

I hope you enjoy this presentation, take some time to think about how you can develop your own relationships and language of creativity to build stronger communities and organizations. Sing, dance….paint…..create! Be a human being.



Breaking Through – Masks, Stagefright and Creatively Being.

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of attending  TEDxCalgary at the Glenbow Museum and hearing some amazing speakers deliver on the topic of “Breaking Through: Exploring the frontiers of ideas and actions.” I also…was greatly honoured to be one of the speakers, and this was the biggest breakthrough for me.

Dog Ate My Homework

My Imaginary Conspirator.

It took me two weeks to think through whether or not I could do this – to break through the safe, quiet solititude of my cocoon-like studio and step into the stage spotlight to share. I had visions of tripping down the stairs and landing face first as I walked in…throwing up on the first few rows of the audience (that literally would be a repeat performance for me). My insane left-brained mind created all sorts of “don’t do this!” scenarios, creating fears and tons of reasons. I think at one point, I even texted my speaker coach to tell her that the dog ate my speech. (Sadly, she knew we didn’t have a dog.)

My biggest fear for the past couple of months (okay…years), has been this odd form of stagefright. Yes. It’s true. I suffer from stagefright and am a die-hard, diagnosed introvert!

I think that was my biggest personal breakthrough was in conquering a very real fear of public speaking, baring my soul and telling my story as me…in front of an audience. Odd – because for such a long time, I literally LIVED in the theatre in my 20’s, loving every opportunity to portray interesting characters in classic stories in front of hundreds of people.

It’s not usual that we accomplish this “breaking through” metamorphosis on our own, but we DO tend to think we are alone in our fears. Not so. I’m ever-grateful to my fellow speakers and my speaker coach, Donna Kennedy-Glans for the encouragement and support to try, and for sharing with me too, how nervous they all were too, about “getting it right” on one try. I’m thankful for so many of my friends and family who encouraged me through this.

My observation in the short-term for all of this is:

It is so much easier to don the mask of a character, with a story that is written for you, which is not about you – personally.

The Comedy and Tragedy of Masking Your True Self

The Comedy and Tragedy of Masking Your True Self

“Acting” distances you from yourself (if you’re good at it) and you tell someone else’s story through your own filters & experience. This theatrical artform has become prolific in our day and age and is reflected by the masks we don in our jobs, and all the separate situations we might find ourselves every day.

We modify our behaviours to hide little bits of our gorgeous, breath-taking human selves…. out of fear.


“Fear, in my opinion, is just a misguided form of creativity.”

How might it be for all of us if we were able to all just “be” ourselves in every situation? What might arise from this and for us? What might this intimate sharing of stories reveal about each of us, in our fragile human state.

I learned so much over the weekend, not just from the rich content, brilliant ideas and brave folk who attended, spoke, volunteered, organized and tech-savvied the whole event, but from the act of openly sharing meaningful personal stories, despite nerves and all of the other distractions that accompany family life.

When you conquer that petty fear, show your true self authentically, magical things happen. I feel so lucky to be able to watch my children model that every day for me.

I think this is the experiment I am in as a Full Time Human Being for the remainder of my life, and I encourage you to uncover the creativity inside of you which is masked by your fears.

Tell your own…..

Once Upon A Time

August 5th – Postscript note: If you would like to witness first hand, my fearful moments, the TEDxCalgary talk is now posted here: The Language of The Creator.

The Politics of Creativity (& Education)…Part One

Lets face it. It’s a vicious cycle.

  1. Arts are not a priority or valued at the level they should be in our educational system.
  2. The Trickle Down Effect: Governments cut funding to the arts. School Boards cut the arts programs. Artists must find creative ways to practice their craft.
  3. Early critical thinking skills amongst our children and youth suffer.
  4. Government, industry and business all come back to artists & creative thinkers to ask them how to think creatively, but….there are less artists, and less creative thinkers.

Rinse and Repeat.

Take up a voice in championing the arts in education at the K-12 levels, or the arts funding cuts will continue to occur. In the end, our society will suffer because we have failed to impart critical thinking skills necessary to solve the complex problems of our society or to provide alternative education methods. Everyone learns differently and for many, arts-based methods make more sense than any other form of pedagogy.

Our systems have let us down. At the end of the day, it falls upon wise parents to impart not only art skills to the best of their ability, but most importantly, the critical thinking processes involved when creating in the arts: brain skills that everyone requires. Many parents try their best by introducing arts process to their children through local community arts classes, but these come at a cost when they should be integrated into our educational system.

While there continues to be federal tax credits to encourage Canadian children to participate in sports, there is no tax credit provided for participation in arts programs, despite the Harper government’s promises.  Toronto-based artist, writer, director and arts advocate Shannon Litzenberger outlines that well in her blog post, “The Arts Policies Diaries: Budget 2011 – An Event of Little Consequence.”

There are many ways that we can begin to implement arts within our daily activities in order to create a culture of creativity and create better thinkers in all sector of our society.

We simply have to work together.

Any question around whether or not these are valuable skills can certainly be answered by looking at how business and leadership are struggling and backpeddling quickly to “learn how to be creative and innovative.”

Have a look at this recent article, posted by Schumpeter in The Economist which was brought to my attention by friend Dr. Steve Taylor, Associate Professor of Management at WPI. That’s only a drop in the pot of the big business that has grown up around creative consultancy industry and organizational development.

Secret SauceEveryone seems to want the quick-fix “secret sauce” of creativity that artists possess. I got a call last week from a fellow artist who had been asked by a group of academic higher-ups and EO’s at a certain Canadian University to “teach us what artists know” in a couple of afternoon sessions. Would I help? ………. Are you joking? We both snickered and I suspect there was eye-rolling going on at his end of the line. It’s becoming a sad inside joke. I had a buck for every time someone asked me this, I’d be able to fund the arts programs myself.

Nothing gets my blood boiling than the establishment wanting to tap artists and “know what they know” in a quick fix, without them taking the time to get some paint on their hands and their clothes or consider paying them the equivalent of what they might a high-priced business consultant, some of whom I know for a fact, receive small fortunes to tell industry CEO’s how to be creative “solution-makers”. 99% of the consultants aren’t professional arts practitioners themselves but try to pass themselves off as such. I consider them in the category of snake-oil salesmen.

Seriously….would you go to a surgeon, ask them to “teach me what you know in an afternoon” so I can do brain surgery on everyone in my organization tomorrow afternoon?”

My observation and concern is that business and government aren’t sincerely willing to participate in the process of the artist – there isn’t enough willingness to get their hands dirty in the act of artfulness for the length of time that it takes.

AND…they usually aren’t willing to pay the artist for it, either.

Heck! I will be learning how to be an artist for the rest of my life and I’ve already been at it since I was born. I don’t know if I’ll ever live up to the title. It’s far too frightening for most folks, there is so much to learn and experience. It’s not like learning how to write a formula in a budget spreadsheet, or how to manage a bottom line to appease stockholders or to put bums in seats at a university or a high-priced management training facility.

This is a big problem in our society and one that keeps me up at night. Politicians won’t even talk about it with any serious understanding of the matter, reasoning and issues around funding the arts & education.

You don’t have to go far to find this. Here’s a great local example:

Recently, with an election campaign in progress, I tweeted Blake Richards, the PC incumbent in our ridiculously Conservative riding of Wild Rose (Alberta). He had tweeted out how proud he was that the PC party spent money on advertising to appear in the ads for the Conservative party.


This guy already spent $ on advertising within hours of an election announcement and then played politics, tried to deflect the constituent concern and then whines that it was someone else’s fault. Really? You didn’t see that one coming? (FYI – the Conservatives were ousted on a non-confidence vote)…and this guy apparently couldn’t figure out on a reply to his tweet what money pot I was talking about? Genius. Proves the need right there for critical thinking improvement, doesn’t it?

Of course, this is also the guy that a couple of weeks ago also tweeted that he repeatedly couldn’t find his truck in the parking lot:

(I do admit my new hobby might just be poking fun at election time, and it is an awful lot of easy, isn’t it?)

I think politicians should work for minimum wage, don’t you agree?

So….back to the much more important and critical issue of creativity and learning.

The only sure-fire solution that I can come up with is seated in our family and what I can do with my own children and those whose lives I directly affect by my art process every day. I’m always looking for ways and means to implement a critical arts-thought process in our home.

I’ll share some of those strategies on the next post in this series….after I go help Blake find his rental car….or his truck….or his money….or a job…

8 Cool Ways You Can Stretch Your Family Creativity Muscles

Giving Birth :: The Artist’s Exhibition

"Peacework" ©1996 Janice Tanton.

"Peacework" ©1996 Janice Tanton.

This past September, good friend and fellow artist, Dr. Nancy J. Adler, opened  “Reality in Translation: Going Beyond the Dehydrated Language of Management”. This exhibition was seated within the 2010 Academy of Management Conference in Montreal, Quebec at Galerie MX.

Throughout Nancy’s exhibition process, we conferred about the challenges and emotional roller-coaster of creating an important exhibition. Covering many subjects from the publicity, the curation, and the energy an artist invests in the creation of something new, we put out heads together in support, and I became Nancy’s “midwife”.

This morning, we were again discussing the experience and reflecting on the post-exhibition happenings. The best way to think of the artists’ work is that it is an ongoing process – never really ends with the exhibition, but that is the starting place and the defining moment where a significant transition in lifeforms occurs.

The best metaphor for an artist’s exhibition process is childbirth. Everything beforehand is pregnancy and gestation. The first exciting “idea” is like great sex. Following that, you get the wakeup when the little blue stick indicates something life-changing is about to happen. You’re stunned that your little idea has taken root and a life of it’s own while you’ve been going about your life.

You have a good nine months or more of taking care of something that is really a mystery. You know that you’re heading towards something wonderful and new, but you’re not really sure if it’s going to be healthy, (or a boy or girl). You eat right, you do all the things you need to ensure it’s going to have all it’s fingers and toes. You visit the doctor, and solicit opinion and feedback from those with more experience in the process and whom you know have your interests and the best interests of your “child” at hand. You read too much about it on the internet and you overthink it all.

The prep is getting to know the labour room, and your gallery. The Curator is the doctor…they’re in and out and have their hands in private places inside of you that can’t even reach! Sometimes you love them and feel reassured and sometimes you want them to back off. The opening is akin to having your water break and giving birth all in one night. You know at some point it will happen, but you’re never truly “ready” for it. It’s fast and furious and at the end, you have no control over it. You aren’t really sure who was in the room, what you said or how you acted. People send flowers.

The period of exhibition  is a bit like the time you spend in the hospital. There are folks there to help, the occasional unwanted guest, family members,  & visitors. Everyone has something to say about your new baby. For some, it looks more like the Dad and yet others whisper behind your back that it looks a bit like the postman,  and has an awful lot of hair. Some folks drink too much in celebration. Some, who you really thought cared, don’t even show up and you’re left wondering if it was something you said during your hormonal pregnancy. Pretty little gifts come in, sometimes in the way of unexpected insights, sometimes in that chocolate or scotch one of the gallery staff passes you.

At the end of it all, it’s really not about you.  The focus goes from the mom to the baby. It’s about what you have created – that child. Eventually you go home with it and wonder if there is a manual. You think you’re over your head and not ready for parenthood. Too late! Post-show/Post-partem blues! You wonder if your life will ever be the same.


For the first little bit, you struggle…. then you begin to know it differently and fit into your stride together. You have to feed it, nurture it, discipline it and raise it right so when it hits it’s own age of maturity, it’s developed it’s own life from that which is around it. At some point, you’ll watch with sadness and happiness as it travels it’s own road in the world. You let go……. but you’re always there to mother and nurture that which you have created.

Being a good artist is all about being human. If you don’t engage in life, you’ll never “get” it. You’re just playing at it.

(P.S. – I see that glint in your eye. You wanna do it again, don’t you?)



“An exhibition of one’s work in which passion and your human capital is invested, is an intensive, life-changing experience. It is like giving birth – the experience & responsibility lasts much longer than the show opening.”